The CIA-Enemy or Promise

Coser, Lewis

We witnessed the extreme of servitude when the informer robbed us of the interchange of speech and hearing. We should have lost memory as well as voice, had it been as easy to forget as to keep...

...it has eaten into the very roots...
...They were stupid for the simple reason that they never seem to have reflected upon the obvious fact that exposure of the sources of some of their secret funds would necessarily wipe out their self-chosen goals, so that the alleged benefits derived from these additional funds would be as naught when compared to the complete debacle which necessarily would follow upon exposure...
...Would that we could continue to enjoy this reputation abroad...
...A labor movement that lacks independence has lost its basic reason for being...
...These public consequences are similar in both instances...
...It is the young in particular, as wise psychologists such as Erik Erikson have shown, who in their search for a stable identity require a large measure of trust if they are to grow into mature and responsible adults...
...The recent disclosures of the infiltration of agents of the CIA in a multitude of American organizations, in the student and the labor movements, in educational institutions, and publishing enterprises, poses as serious a threat, and I say this advisedly, as the infiltration of the Communist party in similar organizations during the thirties and forties...
...VI It would be highly comforting if one could believe that the CIA exceeded its mandates out of excessive and misplaced zeal...
...many of those in the second, although also tainted by accepting undercover support, were plain stupid...
...In small democratic communities, in New England town meetings for example, each member is personally known to the others and his actions are publicly visible...
...Both cases are politically reprehensible, but morally they must be weighed on somewhat different scales...
...If these young men and women, in their fresh idealism, their trusting commitment to organizations that express their revolts and their search for meaning, are confronted with the realization that they have been betrayed, then the result is not just private tragedy but public disaster...
...Hence, such democratic communities are based on the prior assumption, on the wager if you wish, that the great majority of public actors, like you and me, mean what they say and say what they mean...
...To bring freedom at the point of bayonets is an illusion, to bring it with the help of CIA checks is plain folly...
...We must deal with public consequences irrespective of private motivations...
...This is the disaster that the CIA has brought...
...But there is unfortunately no reason to believe this at all...
...But let us do it with a befitting sense of awe and humility...
...They document, as well they must, the ravages of the disease...
...The New Left and the old Left must realize that if the wellsprings of commitment and idealism run dry, not only American democracy but their own sources of support will wither...
...It might indeed gladden the hearts of democrats to see that a Maoist organization in, say, India, is defeated by what appears to be a genuine indigenous trade union...
...If their trust is undermined, their growth is stunted and thwarted...
...Substitute "anti-Communism" for "justice" and you have described the situation of many of these victims of the CIA...
...When one knows that a multitude of agents have infiltrated the very organizations in which you put your trust, then you can no longer confront a man without suspicion...
...Such operations run counter to the very cornerstone of traditional labor organizations both here and abroad: the idea of autonomy...
...It has operated with the explicit approval of successive Presidents and of the whole executive establishment...
...Such is not the case in modern mass democracies where political actors can no longer be controlled through the direct scrutiny of their actions by their fellows...
...That in the earlier case this infiltration was motivated by the desire to destroy American democracy and in the more recent by a proclaimed intent to defend it is irrelevant in this context...
...Such young men are likely to become cynical operators or to withdraw into a private world robbed of public meaning and significance...
...We must also make an effort to discriminate...
...He attacks the very foundation on which the democratic community is based...
...The very men who are responsible for the execution of policy in the American democratic system have helped to subvert it...
...This kind of patriotism, we have been shown again, is but the last refuge of the scoundrel...
...Tacitus I Mutual trust is indispensable to any democratic polity...
...Yes, we need to expose the corruption of all human and humane values that the CIA has brought about...
...It is really incredible that even at this late date there are still men on the so-called Left who have not understood that nationalism, a fierce desire to be free from foreign domination and interference, is a most potent force not only in Europe but above all in Asia, Africa, and Latin America...
...Ever since the Bay of Pigs, the White House and the executive establishment have been requested by many political voices to confine the CIA to its original purpose of gathering and analyzing information...
...But the housecleaning requires freedom from pride and self-indulgent arrogance...
...And when the future leadership of a country is made up of cynics and egocentric sensualists, God help us all...
...I cannot help but feel that many untamed youth leaders, if they were willing to scrutinize themselves, might be moved to say: "There, but for the grace of God, go I." For, after all, if those who succumbed to the blandishment of the CIA were bad men, there would be no problem...
...And that is true whether we deal with bought and hence controlled movements in France or Latin America or with state-controlled unions in the Soviet Union...
...The second category should be relegated to the back benches for a considerable span of time...
...When an autonomous American organization, say the UAW, decides to support its counterpart anywhere in the world, this is an act of international solidarity, a transaction between autonomous organizations, which deserves the support of anyone on the Left...
...When the sinister Mafia of Jay Lovestone and Irving Brown is reported to subvert the international labor movement with the help of CIA funds, we deal with an entirely different matter...
...The unchecked power of the CIA corrupts absolutely everything it touches...
...Any scholar, any student leader, any publisher, any labor official who collaborates with the CIA is contributing to the corruption of American democratic life...
...they may be open to chastisement on grounds of lack of alertness, but not to moral attack...
...III One detects a certain obscene glee in the inquisitorial fervor of certain New Leftish spokesmen when they accumulate documentation on the extent of the cancer that has eaten into American organizational life...
...The sense of distrust and suspicion that is Iikely to characterize domestic American life in the period to come will have a heightened counterpart on the international scene...
...The sickness is not located in one of the branches of the American government...
...If you can no longer deal with your fellow men, with scholars or student leaders, with labor officials or educators, without suspecting that they express the hidden directives of their paymasters rather than their own self-willed intentions, then public dialogue, without which democracy is inconceivable, is no longer possible...
...In a world controlled by agents everyone must be suspected...
...Ultimately, therefore, the responsibility rests not with the CIA, but with the White House and the National Security Council...
...Unless the problem is attacked with the utmost responsibility and delicacy on the Left, it is likely to lead to suicidal reactions...
...All these appeals have been of no avail...
...From now on Americans will no longer be seen as innocents abroad, but as tainted purveyors of corruption and perversion...
...Granted, they argue, the CIA may support such organizations for reasons which are very different from the reasons of liberals or radicals, but the effect might nevertheless be a good one, There is basic confusion here...
...It has insured that the many generous impulses that flow so freely from Americans will tend to wither from want of an object...
...IV Burning indignation is certainly in order when one is confronted with the CIA's corrupting influence...
...There is a considerable difference between the behavior of certain leaders of the NSA who were manipulated by the CIA into rigging the whole political structure of their organization, so that top officers were chosen by a network of "old boys" in the pay of the CIA, and the behavior of certain leaders of international organizations who, in the pursuit of self-chosen objectives, allowed themselves to accept CIA money...
...11 Perhaps the most perturbing feature of the recent revelations is the fact that the CIA concentrated much of its corrupting effort on organizations of American youth...
...Would that it were possible to neatly separate the normal from the pathological) To document once and for all the extent of the corruption is indeed a necessary act of public salubrity...
...V But, some people argue, why should we cavil at efforts to support good causes, say that of democratic unionism in India or Chile, even if it be with questionable means...
...Not only must the CIA influence be excised from domestic and foreign political life, but these men must be made accountable to their peers...
...The first category of men are so compromised that they can no longer be considered a part of any Left-liberal community...
...In cases such as that of the NSA, the CIA corrupted some of its leaders so that they became in effect tools that could be used for alien purposes...
...And let them not drape themselves in the mantle of patriotism...
...And one thing more: let us be aware that what has happened is likely to undermine to a significant extent the sense of idealism on which all radical or liberal politics must necessarily rest...
...But they might be advised to eschew the comforting feeling that this is only an illness which has inflicted others...
...There has been much cant about the alleged evil consequences of the so-called innocence of Americans...
...I leave aside, of course, those people in progressive organizations who were duped into accepting funds from foundations which later turned out to be CIA conduits...
...Without it, without a sense that the political men we deal with can be assumed to be self-actuated, autonomous actors engaged in pursuing their material or ideal interests in an open and publicly visible manner, a democratic policy is bound to falter...
...True tragedy arises, Max Scheler taught us, "when the idea of `justice' appears to be leading to the destruction of higher values...
...But the minute it is revealed that this supposedly indigenous organization in effect relied on American secret subsidies, it will inevitably succumb to the onslaughts of its Maoist rivals...
...The most genuine scholarly research, the most independent offer of help from America for student or labor organizations abroad, will inevitably meet with so much distrust that it will be stymied...
...The real tragedy is, so it would seem, that many of them were good men...
...In particular, distinctions must be made between persons and organizations that received CIA funds in order better to further a cause in which they were engaged, and persons and organizations that allowed themselves to be deflected from their original purpose by the CIA...
...It follows that no matter what his motives, whoever undermines basic human trust is an enemy of democracy...
...We should have lost memory as well as voice, had it been as easy to forget as to keep silence...
...But there are other cases where men honestly engaged in worthwhile activitiesóbe it the training of Latin-American labor leaders or the fostering of trips of student volunteers to Africaódeluded themselves into believing that their work would not be vitiated by accepting CIA support...
...The men in the first category were contemptible...
...They must now be raised with renewed insistence and vigor...
...If this basic trust no longer prevails, massive paranoia and a Hobbesian view of the world is bound to ensue...
...Young men who, in their search for fraternal bonds, discover that some of those they took to be brothers were in fact agents, are likely to be suspicious of any future commitment...
...Yes, we need to clean the atmosphere...
...But it is not enough...

Vol. 14 • May 1967 • No. 3


 
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